Can we move away from animal models of human disease research?

I recently read a comprehensive and very detailed scientific report titled The Research Modernization Deal 2021. It unequivocally shows that many experiments on non-human animals (animals) fail to lead to effective treatments and cures for them. human diseases, including the leading killers in American advertisements for a wide variety of prescription drugs, clearly recognize this ineffectiveness in their disclaimers and other materials.1 The use of animal models diverts funds from more promising areas of research and delays the development of effective drugs and treatments. The plethora of data speaks for itself.

One of the leaders of this movement is neuroscientist Emily Trunnell, who answered a few questions for me about the goals of the project.2

Marc Bekoff: Why did you join the movement to reform biomedical research and move away from work done on non-human animals that generate animal models of disease?

ET: While earning my PhD in Neuroscience, I used mice and rats in experiments to understand how diet can affect learning and memory. At the time, I felt that the use of animals in biomedical research was necessary and that the animals were well cared for. The experiences I had during the four years it took me to complete my doctorate. convinced me otherwise.

During this time, I became increasingly disturbed by the ease with which it was for me, as a graduate student, to design and conduct invasive experiments on mice and rats with very little supervision and afterwards. to have provided only specific justifications to our university supervisory committee. While writing my thesis, I was faced with the task of explaining how the animal experiments I conducted were relevant to human health. I felt like I was really stretching myself to describe how my work applied to humans and it was then that I started to realize that not only was what I was doing was cruel to animals and poorly regulated, but that it had little or no scientific justification.

After graduating, I decided to lean into science and question more seriously this system that prioritizes grants, publications, and outdated traditions over research ethics, to the good. -being animal and for the good of society. The research modernization agreement sets out steps for broader policy changes that would automatically eliminate the use of animals where there is most harm and least benefit and provide a framework for the transition to research methods more relevant to humans that do not use other animals. If I were to go back and finish my graduate studies, I certainly wouldn’t use animals for my research projects. However, I am happy that I can now use my experience to defend animals and better science.

MB: What are some of the topics you envision in the 2021 Research Modernization Agreement?

ET: In the Research Modernization Accord, we present a wealth of scientific evidence that challenges the idea that the use of animals in biomedical research protects human health. For example, studies from the last decade show:

  • 81% of the time, animal tests fail to detect potential side effects of drugs in humans.
  • 89% of experiments cannot even be replicated, a critical step in research, resulting in an annual wastage of $ 28 billion.
  • 90% of basic research, most of which involves animals, has not resulted in any human therapy.
  • 95% of new drugs tested safe and effective in laboratory animals fail in human clinical trials.

Failure rates in some diseases are even worse:

  • 100% of treatments for stroke and sepsis tested in animals have failed in humans.
  • 99.6% of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease developed in animals have failed in humans.
  • Only 3.4% of cancer drugs tested on animals are successful in humans.
  • There is no effective vaccine against HIV, despite decades of experiments in monkeys.

In some cases, animal research misleads scientists and the results for humans are debilitating and fatal. There are other factors to consider, such as declining public support for the use of animals in laboratories and the economic benefits of investing in superior technology that is more humane and more relevant to humans.

The Research Modernization Accord provides a sensible roadmap for how we can move away from the use of animals in terms of funding biomedical research:

  • Stop doing what doesn’t and stop funding animal experiments in the areas where they have been shown to be the worst predictors of humans.
  • Evaluate other areas of research to determine in which other cases the use of animals is not suitable for the purpose. This can be done through systematic reviews and meta-analyzes.
  • Prioritize funding for non-animal methods and reduce funding for animal experiments, to encourage researchers to choose animal-free methods.
  • Implement an ethical harm-benefit analysis system so that cumulative harm to animals is assessed and weighted against an evidence-based calculation of the potential benefits of the experiment, taking into account past failures.
  • Harmonize globally which non-animal tests are accepted for regulatory toxicity testing.

MB: How does your work differ from that of others on the same general topics?

ET: Many efforts underway to save or improve the lives of animals used in laboratories focus on a specific animal or species experiment. These types of campaigns are vitally important, but without a comprehensive plan to change the paradigm, they can feel like emptying the ocean with a spoon. If the Research Modernization Agreement were adopted, many of these more specific campaigns would become unnecessary, as the most cruel or scientifically unjustified experiments would be eliminated.

MB: Do you hope that as people learn what you want to do, they will be more open to your ideas?

ET: We often get the impression that members of the scientific community think those involved in animal welfare are anti-science, but nothing could be further from the truth. Scientific evidence is what shows that 1) other animals are intelligent, feel complex emotions, and suffer in captivity; and that 2) animal experiments continually fail to lead to treatments and cures for humans. I am confident that the more we can demonstrate, through reason and scholarship, that the logical conclusion is to take steps away from animal testing, our message will reach those who need to hear it.

Source link